To say that Mark Craft's J.L. Mann squad has talent would be an understatement. With prospects in SG Damien Leonard, SG/SF Brandon Boggs, and PG Devon Myrick the Patriots have a strong nucleus to the team. Well the talent pool doesn't end there for the Patriots. Enter 2011 swingman Darrice Whitley and he brings added depth and another dimension to Craft's team.
SCPrepNation.com caught up with Whitley recently for an exclusive update.
Whitley has been busy this offseason on the AAU circuit and shed some light on just how things have been progressing for him this summer.
"You know it's been a lot of workouts. I'm trying to improve my weak points and continue to improve my strong points. I've been working hard on improving my jumpshot and just getting bigger and stronger"
This offseason Whitley has split time playing with the SC Ravens and Southeastern Athletics.
The 6'4 180 pounder says he's faced some tough opponents so far this offseason with his AAU teams. "The toughest guys I've played this year in AAU have been Brad Beal, Michael Gilchrist, and Larry Savage."
One of Whitley's mentors, Eric Williams, has strong ties to the area helping prospects of all ages develop their games with his Hoops Hall basketball program. Williams starred at Southside High before heading to Appalachian State and finished his college career at Guilford College. Williams has played overseas professionally and he plays in the Premier Basketball League currently for the Jacksonville Slam. He is also the younger brother of former UNC star and NBA player Shammond Williams. Darrice talked about his relationship with Williams.
"He has had a great influence on my game. He's always pushing me and showing me the work ethic it takes from the professional side of basketball."
Looking back at last season the Patriots were one of the state's top teams in AAA but fell to eventual AAA Upper State champions Greer High. It was there that Whitley said he stepped up his game when his team needed him most.
"Facing Greer in the Upper State championship at the Bi-Lo Center was the biggest game I have ever played in. Coach put me in at the five spot and I made the most of it. I had 12 points and 8 rebounds."
The Patriots ran into some tough hombres last season and he shared which opponents he thought presented the toughest challenge for himself and the Patriots.
"I'd have to say Devin Booker, Michael Taylor, and Chandler Hash were the toughest guys we faced. Booker was hard to guard because he is very strong and athletic, Hash and Taylor can shoot really good and they both know how to get to the line."
Ironically Whitley faces some of his toughest competition daily in practice with the Patriots. While Leonard and Boggs get most of the attention it helps push Whitley to another level. "Yes, playing with Damien and Boggs everyday just makes me better, because they come to work every day, which motivates me to get better."
That work has a few schools taking early looks at Whitley early on in the recruiting process. "I'm hearing from Radford, Western Carolina, and North Carolina Wesleyan."
While he mentioned lining up at the center position during the battle versus Greer we see him as a possible prospect from positions one through three on the next level. He shed some light on just what makes him such an intriguing prospects for potential colleges.
"I have a pretty big wingspan and good leaping ability. I'd have to say my ballhandling is another strength of mine. Most games I get a chance to play the one and show my ability to pass the ball. I'm able to create a lot of easy buckets for my teammates."
We've watched Whitley over the course of the past year and a half and we echo those sentiments. That blend of length, athleticism, ballhandling, and vision is indeed something college coaches will want to keep a close eye on over the next two seasons when it comes to Whitley. Should that jumpshot continue to get better and he continue to get stronger it wouldn't surprise us if more mid-majors started blowing up the Patriots' athletic department even more.
For now though Whitley says he's working hard to try and get looks in hopes of landing that first scholarship offer. With early suitors already in the mix he also talked about schools that he'd like to hear more from in the near future.
Coming so close to making it to Columbia to play for the AAA state championship many expect the Patriots to be the early favorites to take it all this season.
"We were very close last year and we are looking to win it all this coming season. We lost a few key guys but we have a good point guard in Devon Myrick, Damien Leonard is one of the best in the nation, Brandon boggs is a D1 forward, and we have a strong post presence in Breylon Jones."
We will catch up with Whitley's mentor Eric Williams soon to talk about his take on Whitley's game so stay tuned for that along with some video footage of Whitley in action as well.
SCPrepNation.com will be here to bring you the latest news regarding Darrice Whitley as we expect his recruitment to amp up soon playing a vital role with the J.L. Mann Patriots this coming season so stay tuned!
Darrice "Weezy" Whitley